Title: Torchwood High
Chapter: 10 - Afghanistan
Fandom: Torchwood/Doctor Who
Size: 108,000 + and growing
Pairings: Jack/Ianto mainly but many others
Characters: Jack, Ianto, Tosh, Owen, Gwen, (Torchwood). Others from Doctor Who.
Rating: PG - 14
Spoilers: The story weaves through Torchwood from the beginning so there will be spoilers for all series. There are also some references to Doctor Who series. But as this is AU things won’t exactly be the same or turn out the same way.
Warnings: some sexual content including m/m, f/f and m/f
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters as they belong to Russell T Davies and the BBC but I do get to play with them.
Author’s Note: This was a hard chapter to write as I have little idea of procedures in the army. I did some research on the army website about conditions in Afghanistan, the journey and what Camp Bastion is like. I have assumed that there is some drinking allowed but I couldn’t find any reference to this. There are some interesting blogs. This episode is inspired by Captain Jack Harkness (I have met someone named Harness!) and End of Worlds. Someone else other than Ianto will be with Jack during this time.
Chapter 10 – Afghanistan
All the way to his post at Camp Bastion Jack had just two thoughts, one was Ianto and the other was survival. It was easy to slip back into a soldier’s routine. Jack was an officer and he’d already seen active service, so despite only being a reservist he was well respected among his unit. It took some hours to fly to Kandahar airport. The plane journey was relatively comfortable, as it wasn’t packed out like a normal plane would be, except their kit was everywhere. As soon as they got into Afghan airspace they had to put on battledress ready to face small arms fire. They’d reached Kandahar in the dark and transferred planes but now as dawn was breaking they could see that were flying over a mountainous environment. As Jack looked down he realised both how bleak and beautiful it was. He also, for a moment, wondered if it was worth all the lives it had claimed over many years. Jack knew his history; he knew that there had been so many failures to capture this territory. He looked around the young men and women on the plane and hoped that they’d all survive but there were no guarantees. He felt a bit of an old man as he looked around and realised that a lot of them were young enough to be his son or daughter.
Finally they landed in Helmand Province at Camp Bastion. Jack found himself surprised at just how large it was. Somehow it seemed strange to see a Pizza Hut at the same time as hearing gunfire around them. As they got off the plane Jack thought it was cold but no colder than it had been back in Cardiff. His unit was allocated their accommodation and Jack checked that everyone was settled in before going to the command post. Jack reported to his commanding officer. Previously Jack had worked mostly in intelligence gathering but he wasn’t sure exactly what his unit was going to be required to do.
‘Ah, Captain Harkness, these are your orders. Have your men settled in to their accommodation?’
‘Yes sir. Everything is as we expected. I assume we’ll be allocated patrols soon.’
‘We’ll give you a while to settle in and get used to the routine,’ replied the officer. ‘You’ve been on active service before, haven’t you Harkness? In Iraq, I believe?’
‘Yes sir, several years ago now.’
‘Well, get off and get yourself some food. There’s another TA unit here from Lancashire; their captain is already in the mess. It might be an idea to introduce yourself, as I think your units will be working in the same area.’
‘Yes sir, I’ll see if I can find him.’
Jack left the HQ building and walked to the mess. He got some food and looked around for another captain’s insignia. He saw a tall and rather handsome captain who he thought fitted the bill, and grabbing his tray, he went to sit down.
‘Hi! Thought I’d join you if you don’t mind. Captain Jack Harkness, and you are?’
The captain looked up. He had the deepest brown eyes and those eyes widened as he looked Jack up and down. Immediately Jack wondered, ’am I being checked out here? Because I know that look!’
The handsome face spoke with a Lancashire accent. ‘That’s strange. My name is Captain John Harness and to my friends I’m Jackie! What an odd coincidence! You’re from the TA too then?’
‘Yes, from Cardiff. I’m not Welsh by birth, just been there for years. So what do you do then when you’re not fighting for Queen and Country?’
‘Nothing exciting. I work in retail and help manage a big supermarket; boring really. And you?’
‘I'm an assistant head in a high school.’
‘Oh well, getting shot at will seem like a break then!’
‘No, not really; it’s a good school on the whole and I’ve worked there for years.’
‘How’s your family feel about you being here then?’ Jackie asked.
Jack wondered if he was fishing and thought ‘What shall I say? No, I don’t have any immediate family to worry about. You?’
‘Mum and Dad at home but no, no one else.’
Jack felt guilty for not mentioning Ianto but he would if he got to know this man properly. After all he was kind of cute.
He was to meet Captain Harness quite often over the next few days. To begin with he spent some time looking over documents and photographs, trying to get a handle on what was happening beyond the base. The landscape was bleak and bare. In the distance Jack could see snow covered mountain peaks, somewhat bigger than the Brecon Beacons, he thought. Every other day there were reports of enemy fire nearby. Patrols went out and sometimes didn’t return. They’d even had missiles land near the base. However, they all knew that the biggest problems were suicide attacks and roadside bombs. Leaving the base was always dangerous.
Jack also knew that there had been some talk. Among his own men Jack felt at home; they all knew him and frankly none now cared about who he slept with. He was one of their own and that’s all that mattered. He was aware that people gossiped and he got the odd look but sometimes, it was hard to tell if they were looking him over or checking him out. Fraternisation was not encouraged but everyone knew it went on. Having women there gave more opportunity but there’d always been the odd fumble here and there between the men.
In the down time Jack was either in the mess or the gym. He’d been in Helmand a few weeks now. He got to talk to Ianto for only half an hour a week other than by email, but so far hadn’t asked the question and Ianto hadn’t volunteered an answer. Ianto had written letters about how he missed him and the goings on at school that was all. John and Tosh wrote as well.
One night, feeling a bit lonely, he’d gone into the mess. He sat down quietly at a table, sipping a beer, until he noticed Captain Harness entering the room. ‘Drink?’ Jack asked.
‘Yeah, please,’ Captain Harness replied. ‘Have you heard? There’s some talk of us being posted to police training.’
Jack got the beers and sat down again. The other captain looked up and said, ‘I need a smoke. Fancy sitting outside? There’s a shelter and it’s not as cold tonight.’
They went outside; there was a make-shift shelter enclosed on all sides, except for a swing door entrance. They were the only ones there.
‘Do you have someone special at home, Jack?’ Harness asked. Jack thought, ’well that was coming straight out with it! Yes, I think I do,’ Jack replied.
‘You sound a bit unsure. Is she not happy with you being here?’
‘She’s a he,’ Jack replied, wondering what reaction he would get.
‘I wondered if the rumour was true. You’re very up front about it, which I admire. I wish everyone had your guts. Do you get many problems, because you’re open about being gay?’
Jack realised pretty quickly that the man sitting with him was asking all this for an obvious reason. His life was complicated enough and this man was giving him that look. If it existed, his gaydar was on red alert. He’d have to handle this carefully.
‘Look Jackie, it hasn’t always been easy in uniform or in civvies. I’m just as honest as I can be. I’ve had relationships with men and women; somewhere I’ve a daughter and a grandson. And, yes, I was very young. I came out at work and in the TA at virtually the same time. It was a bit of a nine minute wonder and I survived. I get a few comments but I’m used to it, and I cope. The fact I’ve seen active service gets me some kudos around here.’
‘What’s the boyfriend like then?’
‘I’ve got a photo here.’ Jack took out a photo of Ianto taken at the Christmas do.
‘Wow,’ said Jackie. ‘I can see the attraction.’
‘He is rather gorgeous, isn’t he?’ Jack was proud that Ianto was his; at least he hoped he was.
‘What does he do? Is he out like you?’
‘Ah, that’s a bit more complicated. He’s a teacher as well, but not out. I’m his first boyfriend and,’ Jack hesitated, ‘he has a girlfriend. A few close friends know about us but without going into details, it’s difficult.’
‘Only one thing really matters though, doesn’t it Jack? Whether he loves you and you love him.’ Jackie looked sad as he said it.
‘Oh, I love him, and he says he loves me, so I have to believe him.’
‘What’s he like, other than drop dead gorgeous in a suit?’
‘He’s quiet, honest, decent and hard working. He cares about his friends, he’s loyal and, at the moment, I’m making him appear perfect!’
‘Sounds like he is. No one else stands a chance against that competition, I suppose?’
‘No, I don’t think so,’ Jack replied.
‘Pity!’ Jackie grabbed Jack’s hand. ‘I would have liked to have got to know you better, Jack.’
‘In other circumstances, me too, but it’s difficult out here. And more importantly there’s Ianto.’
Jackie Harness leaned back and smoked his cigarette without speaking. The air was thick with thoughts from both men. At that moment, two other soldiers entered the shelter.
‘Not interrupting anything, we hope sirs?’ The voice sniggered slightly. ‘No, I was just going,’ Jackie replied. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, Captain Harkness.’ With that he got up and left without looking back. Jack remained seated to finish his beer. Not wanting to give the soldiers a chance to talk behind his back, his look towards them was challenging.
‘Fag, sir?’ said one of the privates, offering his packet. The other tried not to laugh. Jack raised an eyebrow and replied carefully, ‘No, thanks, not my thing.’
‘Not what we’ve heard Sir!’ They both were challenging him to make something of it. Jack laughed. ‘Well, I suppose with young men dying all the time out here, where I put my cock is going to be a topic of hot gossip, isn’t it lads? Can’t think why anybody should be interested really.’
‘Well we don’t care, Sir, do we Jase? Sorry, we were just checking how you’d react,’ one of them replied sheepishly. ‘I think it’s good really but there are a few of them around here you need to look out for.’
‘Thanks. Been here long, boys?’ Jack asked.
‘About three months, Sir, and it’s bloody awful. You’re TA, aren’t you? You must have seen active service before, Sir?’
‘Yes, I was in Iraq at the beginning. This’ll be my last turn though, getting too old for this game. I’ve been here about a month and been shot at a few times.’
‘You get used to it, but not the deaths. You never get used to them.’
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Jack got up to leave. ‘See you round lads.’
A few days later Jack was told that he, and three other officers, were being sent to another post to liaise with Afghan police training. The idea being that they would get involved with this work. Jack was aware that this could be dangerous and that local police were often targets. They were going in two cars, two of them in each. Jack and Jackie got in the same car. The other two soldiers were in the car in front. All of them knew that they might face fire or roadside bombs. The journey was about twenty miles. The route was quiet for the first fifteen miles and then it happened. The car in front hit a bomb, a large one and was ripped apart sending shrapnel all around. It smashed through the windscreen hitting both of them and Jackie lost control as the car headed into a ravine turning over a few times. It came to a halt at the bottom which was some way down. Luckily it didn’t explode on impact. Jack knew that his leg had been caught below the knee but he couldn’t assess the damage. He could see that Jackie was worse. A large piece of shrapnel had caught him in the stomach and he was bleeding and lapsing in and out of consciousness. Jack knew the car could go up at any moment. He had to get them both out. He tested his ankle but he couldn’t stand. Basically he crawled on his knees dragging Jackie out behind him. They got behind a rock just as the car exploded. This meant they now had no radio contact and only the food and water that Jack had stuffed in his pockets. It was also beginning to get dark. Jack tried to feel the extent of his injury and realised that he had a compound fracture. He tried not to be sick and made a tourniquet at his knee to stop the bleeding. Looking at Jackie he knew that there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t remove the shrapnel from Jackie’s stomach and it looked like there were other injuries. Jackie was losing a lot of blood. As Jack ran his head through his hair he realised that his head was also bleeding. He must have hit it as the car turned over.
There was nothing either of them could do but wait and hope. Jack knew that he couldn’t get up the ravine. Surely when it was light someone would see the wreckage or report that they hadn’t turned up. Jackie whimpered. Jack had nothing to give him to cope with the pain. He pulled Jackie into his arms trying not to do more damage. If they didn’t get help soon Jack was afraid that Jackie wouldn’t make it. The night was getting colder and Jackie shivered. Jack stroked his forehead and he opened his eyes.
‘Jack, how bad is it? Tell me the truth.’
‘I’ll not lie to you Jackie, it’s bad. You’ve a major shrapnel wound and some other injuries and you’re losing blood. You need to get out of here.’
‘We both know that isn’t going to happen Jack.’ He looked up with tears in his eyes. Jack just leant in and kissed him tenderly, somehow knowing that this was right and what Jackie wanted.
‘I wish we’d had a chance to get to know each other better Jack; your Ianto is a lucky man.’
‘I’m the lucky one.’ Jack wanted to say the right thing to make Jackie feel better. ‘If he didn’t exist then you and I might have stood a chance.’ He didn’t know if he meant it but he wanted Jackie to feel like he did. As the time passed Jackie’s breathing got shallower.
‘Talk to me Jack. I’m so glad that I’m not going to die alone.’ Jack wanted to assure him that he wouldn’t die but he knew how much blood Jackie had lost and there was nothing he could do. Both were in a lot of pain.
‘Tell me about you Jackie. How come you haven’t found someone?’
‘It took me ages to admit that I was gay to myself Jack, let alone to others. It would kill my parents. I’m thirty three and I’ve hardly been kissed except for the odd guilty one night stand and ……... I joined the TA because of my Dad. He said it would make a man of me. I just thought that perhaps I’d meet a nice man and I did. I met Jamie. He was Scottish. We met at a training camp on manoeuvres. We had a glorious three weeks but he was married, and a father, and well you can guess the rest. You don’t know how lucky you are Jack.’ Suddenly Jackie moaned.
‘Try not to move,’ Jack whispered.
‘Hold me Jack please.’ Jackie looked at him and then his eyes closed.
Jack cried, ‘Jackie don’t leave me,’ but he was already gone. Jack kissed him briefly and held his hand.
‘You’re not alone Jackie, I’m here.’ And with that Jack lost consciousness as well.
They were found still holding hands late the next day. Jack remained unconscious and was taken to the nearest field hospital. They were worried about his head injury. Jackie’s body was carried with the others; just more victims of the insurgents who would at least be going home for one last time.
When John Smith, as Jack’s nominated next of kin, received the call that he’d been injured and was still unconscious, his first thought was, ‘how am I going to tell Ianto?’
I hope the incident is realistic enough and that no-one is offended by the setting.
Next chapter will be not based on anything but what has happened to Ianto up to this point and what happens next. After that I will be attempting Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and bringing on John Hart!